Friday, 4 November 2016

The Making of a Cyborg #4: Brain-Computer Interfaces

The BrainGate is an example of an invasive BCI. (Photo by Michael Edwards)

In this final entry in this series, I will elaborate on a topic I mentioned last time about a specific category of neuroprosthetic that allows people to manipulate computer devices with their mind. This technology is known as a brain-computer interface, and it offers enormous potential in terms of disability support.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Weeks 7-8 at QA Consulting: Docker, Interviews, Deployment

Like many DevOps tools, Docker uses adorable mascots to lure developers into a false sense of security.

If there's one thing I'm looking forward to in the near future, it's not Halloween or Christmas or even the prospect of finally being paid for my work. No, I would say that I'm most looking forward to next Sunday morning, because that's when the clocks go back and I can get an extra hour's sleep. My workload is showing no signs of lessening, which coupled with my body starting to develop a tolerance to caffeine means I'll take all the extra sleep I can get. (Having said that, it is currently well past 11pm as I am writing this. I don't claim to be a sensible man.)

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Making of a Cyborg #3: Neuroprosthetics

Cochlear implants can give people born deaf a sense of sound. (Photo by Bjorn Knetsch)

So far in this series I have primarily focused on how robotics can be used to replace missing limbs and assist movement, but the devices I have mentioned are, by and large, still very much external to the human body. This time I intend to delve deeper into the human body and discuss how computer technology can be integrated on a more fundamental level. This is the field of neuroprosthetics. A neuroprosthetic is, in a nutshell, "a device that supplants or supplements the input and/or output of the nervous system" [1], and while this field is too vast and complex to fully cover in a single blog post, I will do my best do give an overview of the major applications.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Weeks 5-6 at QA Consulting: DevOps (again), Puppet, Poker

Yes, this picture is actually relevant to this post. Sort of.

If you asked me to describe the past two weeks of training in one word, I'd probably throw my head back and groan loudly because I've been working all day and I'm far too tired to make that sort of mental effort. Ask me again after a few drinks and I might choose the word "exhausting". You see, I recently moved on to some more advanced DevOps, which will be my specialisation for the remainder of my training, and if the week spent learning about continuous integration gave us a taste of the subject then the past fortnight has been like trying to shovel a massive handful of DevOps into my mouth and swallow it whole.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Making of a Cyborg #2: Exoskeletons

A prototype HAL suit from Cyberdyne. (Photo by Steve Jurvetson)

In the last instalment of "The Making of a Cyborg", I covered a few of the ways in which robots can replace part of the human body. But in many cases, this kind of approach may not be appropriate. A person might still have their entire body but be unable to move it properly due to issues such as paralysis. Meanwhile, military organisations are constantly researching ways to enable soldiers to run faster and lift heavier objects. Both of these problems may in fact be solvable via robotic exoskeletons: wearable machines capable of enhancing the movement of the human body.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Weeks 3-4 at QA Consulting: Enterprise Architecture, Lowry, Gnomes

"When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Before last week I didn't think I had inherited my dad's seemingly irrational hatred of garden gnomes, but now I'm starting to reconsider my position. There's something vaguely sinister about the little ceramic monstrosities, from their rosy cheeks to their bulging eyes to the way they seem to infest gardens all over the country like an invasive species. Surprisingly, though, the fact that the fictional company we've been dealing with in the past couple of weeks of training specialises in "gnomes, gnome accessories and garden ornaments" is far from the most worrying thing about it. Judging from the information we've been given, the company is almost certainly committing tax evasion, and may also be either a money laundering scheme for a drug cartel or some sort of neo-Nazi cult.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Making of a Cyborg #1: Artificial Limbs

DEKA Research's "Luke Arm". (Photo by DARPA)

It's a concept straight out of science fiction. From Star Wars to Robocop to Ghost in the Shell, countless stories have imagined how man and machine can be fused into something new -- a cyborg. But the technology presented in these stories might not be as far off as people think. In this series of blog posts, I will explore the ways in which current robotic and computer technology can augment or replace parts of the human body. This week, I will start with something that will immediately spring to most people's minds when they hear the word "cyborg": artificial limbs.